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May 2018 Tip of the Month

Oops, it’s not a birthday or Memorial Day card – it’s an IRS Notice 

Each year, the Internal Revenue Service sends millions of letters and notices to taxpayers for a variety of reasons. While clients at Abo and Company are not the only ones who get these “love letters”, we get our fair share of nervous phone calls from concerned recipients.  We strongly suggest you forward the notice to your accountant to properly resolve the matter for you (hopefully, that be us at Abo and Company).  Here are nine things even the IRS agrees you should know about such notices – just in case one shows up in your mailbox

  1. Don’t panic. Many of these letters can be dealt with simply and painlessly.
  2. There are a number of reasons why the IRS might send you a notice. Notices may request payment of taxes, notify you of changes to your account, or request additional information. The notice you receive normally covers a very specific issue about your account or tax return.
  3. Each letter and notice offers specific instructions on what you are asked to do to satisfy the inquiry.
  4. If you receive a correction notice, you should review the correspondence and compare it with the information on your return.
  5. If you agree with the correction to your account, then usually no reply is necessary unless a payment is due or the notice directs otherwise.
  6. If you and we do not agree with the correction the IRS made, it is important to respond as requested. You should send a written explanation of why you disagree and include any documents and information you want the IRS to consider, along with the bottom tear-off portion of the notice. Mail the information to the IRS address shown in the upper left-hand corner of the notice. Allow at least 30 days for a response. We suggest retaining proof of mailing.
  7. When a specific date is listed in the letter, there are two main reasons we believe you should respond by that date:
    1. To minimize additional interest and penalty charges
    2. To preserve appeal rights if you and we don’t agree.
  8. Most correspondence can be handled without calling or visiting an IRS office. However, if you have questions, you call the telephone number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. Have a copy of your tax return and the correspondence available when you call to help us respond to your inquiry.
  9. It’s important that you keep copies of any correspondence with your records.

Interestingly enough, the IRS receives thousands of reports each year from taxpayers who receive suspicious emails, phone calls, faxes or notices claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service. Many of these scams fraudulently use the Internal Revenue Service name or logo as a lure to make the communication more authentic and enticing. The goal of these scams – known as phishing – is to trick you into revealing personal and financial information. The scammers can then use that information – like your Social Security number, bank account or credit card numbers – to commit identity theft or steal your money.

Here are five things we’ve been advised even the IRS wants you to know about phishing scams:

1. The IRS doesn’t ask for detailed personal and financial information like PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts.

2. The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail and won’t send a message about your tax account. If you receive an e-mail from someone claiming to be the IRS or directing you to an IRS site:

  • Do not reply to the message.
  • Do not open any attachments. Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
  • Do not click on any links. If you clicked on links in a suspicious e-mail or phishing website and entered confidential information, visit the IRS website and enter the search term 'identity theft' for more information and resources to help.

3. The address of the official IRS website is http://www.irs.gov. Do not be confused or misled by sites claiming to be the IRS but ending in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov. If you discover a website that claims to be the IRS but you suspect it is bogus, do not provide any personal information on the suspicious site and report it to the IRS.

4. If you receive a phone call, fax or letter in the mail from an individual claiming to be from the IRS but you suspect they are not an IRS employee, contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to determine if the IRS has a legitimate need to contact you. Report any bogus correspondence.

5. Two weeks ago the IRS warned us of a new twist on an old phone scam as criminals use telephone numbers that mimic IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) to trick taxpayers into paying non-existent tax bills. The IRS and its Security Summit partners – the state tax agencies and the tax industry – urge us and taxpayers to remain alert to tax scams year-round. Even after the April deadline passes, the tax scam season doesn’t end. In the latest version of the phone scam, criminals claim to be calling from a local IRS TAC office. Scam artists have programmed their computers to display the TAC telephone number, which appears on the taxpayer’s Caller ID when the call is made. If the taxpayer questions their demand for tax payment, they direct the taxpayer to IRS.gov to look up the local TAC office telephone number to verify the phone number. The crooks hang up, wait a short time and then call back a second time, and they are able to fake or “spoof” the Caller ID to appear to be the IRS office calling. After the taxpayer has “verified” the call number, the fraudsters resume their demands for money, generally demanding payment on a debit card. We’re told fraudsters also have been similarly spoofing local sheriff’s offices, state Department of Motor Vehicles, federal agencies and others to convince taxpayers the call is legitimate.

6. You can help shut down these schemes and prevent others from being victimized. If you receive the IRS phone scam or any IRS impersonation scam, you should report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at its IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting site and to the IRS by emailing phishing@irs.gov with the subject line “IRS Phone Scam.”